Essential questions are interrogative statements used to guide the foundation and focus the big ideas of a lesson plan. They help students understand the point or theme of the lesson. Part of a curriculum framework, those questions are connected to the concepts students should know and the competencies they should be able to demonstrate. Reading comprehension consists of a basic set of concepts and competencies needed for all content areas of learning. Therefore, it is important to create essential questions for reading comprehension lesson plans.

Write a brief description or objective of the reading comprehension lesson. This does not have to be a complete plan, but should simply explain the general aim of the lesson to create a starting point. For example, you may explain that students will read a fictional piece in order to determine the author's purpose and point of view of a text.

Review and list the state and national standards that will be addressed within the reading comprehension lesson. Some districts have a set of locally-developed standards that must be met as well, so review and list those if applicable.

Create a big idea, or a statement explaining the theme or main idea, based on the concepts and competencies of the lesson. For instance, you might write that reading comprehension requires a constant interaction between the student and the text being read.

Formulate at least one, but no more than three essential questions that urge students to think critically and creatively in regards to the lesson's big idea. It should, more or less, restate the big idea in question form, ultimately allowing for debate or open-ended discussion by students. Ask a question such as, "How does a constant interaction between reader and text lead to better reading comprehension?"

Check to make sure that each essential question will guide students to meeting the standards. If it will not, either remove it from the list or consider rewording the big idea and question so that it does. Big ideas and essential questions should always lead to students' accomplishment of the listed standards.

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  • Questions that are too simple lack the need to think critically in developing an answer and defeats the purpose of an essential question.

About the Author

Writing since 2008, Marisa Hefflefinger's work has appeared on websites such as SuperGreenMe, Jennifer McColm and Character Odyssey. She holds a Bachelor of Science in English education and a Master of Arts in teaching literacy and language, and she is currently working on a Ph.D. in critical literacy and English education.